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delight ; of the rest we can make no report, as we did not
stay to hear any more.

We walked about, and met with a disappointment at every
turn ; our favourite views were mere patches of paint ; the
fountain that had sparkled so showily by lamp-light, presented
very much the appearance of a water-pipe that had burst;
all the ornaments were dingy, and all the walks gloomy.
There was a spectral attempt at rope-dancing in the little
open theatre. The sun shone upon the spangled dresses of
the performers, and their evolutions were about as inspiriting
and appropriate as a country-dance in a family vault. So we
retraced our steps to the firework -ground, and mingled with
the little crowd of people who were contemplating Mr. Green.

Some half-dozen men were restraining the impetuosity of
one of the balloons, which was completely filled, and had the
car already attached ; and as rumours had gone abroad that
a Lord was "going up," the crowd were more than usually
anxious and talkative. There was one little man in faded
black, with a dirty face and a rusty black neckerchief with a
red border, tied in a narrow wisp round his neck, who entered
into conversation with everybody, and had something to say
upon every remark that was made within his hearing. He
was standing with his arms folded, staring up at the balloon,
and every now and then vented his feelings of reverence for


the aeronaut, by saying, as he looked round to catch some-
body's eye, " He's a rum 'un is Green ; think o' this here being
up'ards of his two hundredth ascent ; ecod the man as is ekal
to Green never had the toothache yet, nor won't have within
this hundred year, and that's all about it. When you meets
with real talent, and native, too, encourage it, that's what I
say ; " and when he had delivered himself to this effect, he
would fold his arms with more determination than ever, and
stare at the balloon with a sort of admiring defiance of any
other man alive, beyond himself and Green, that impressed
the crowd with the opinion that he was an oracle.

"Ah, you're very right, sir," said another gentleman, with
his wife, and children, and mother, and wife's sister, and a
host of female friends, in all the gentility of white pocket-
handkerchiefs, frills, and spencers, "Mr. Green is a steady
hand, sir, and there's no fear about him."

" Fear ! " said the little man : " isn't it a lovely thing
to see him and his wife a going up in one balloon, and his
own son and his wife a jostling up against them in another,
and all of them going twenty or thirty mile in three hours
or so, and then coming back in pochayses? I don't know
where this here science is to stop, mind you ; that's what
bothers me."

Here there was a considerable talking among the females
in the spencers.

" What's the ladies a laughing at, sir ? " inquired the little
man, condescendingly.

" It's only my sister Mary," said one of the girls, " as says
she hopes his lordship won't be frightened when he's in the
car, and want to come out again."

"Make yourself easy about that there, my dear," replied
the little man. "If he was so much as to move a inch
without leave, Green would jist fetch him a crack over the
head with the telescope, as would send him into the bottom
of the basket in no time, and stun him till they come down


"Would he, though?" inquired the other man.

" Yes, would he," replied the little one, " and think nothing
of it, neither, if he was the king himself. Green's presence
of mind is wonderful."

Just at this moment all eyes were directed to the pre-
parations which were being made for starting. The car was
attached to the second balloon, the two were brought pretty
close together, and a military band commenced playing, with
a zeal and fervour which would render the most timid man
in existence but too happy to accept any means of quitting
that particular spot of earth on which they were stationed.
Then Mr. Green, sen., and his noble companion entered one
car, and Mr. Green, jun., and his companion the other ; and
then the balloons went up, and the aerial travellers stood up,
and the crowd outside roared with delight, and the two
gentlemen who had never ascended before, tried to wave their
flags, as if they were not nervous, but held on very fast all
the while; and the balloons were wafted gently away, our
little friend solemnly protesting, long after they were reduced
to mere specks in the air, that he could still distinguish
the white hat of Mr. Green. The gardens disgorged their
multitudes, boys ran up and down screaming " bal-loon ; "
and in all the crowded thoroughfares people rushed out of
their shops into the middle of the road, and having stared
up in the air at two little black objects till they almost
dislocated their necks, walked slowly in again, perfectly

The next day there was a grand account of the ascent in
the morning papers, and the public were informed how it
was the finest day but four in Mr. Green's remembrance ;
how they retained sight of the earth till they lost it behind
the clouds ; and how the reflection of the balloon on the
undulating masses of vapour was gorgeously picturesque ;
together with a little science about the refraction of the sun's
rays, and some mysterious hints respecting atmospheric heat
and eddying currents of air.


There was also an interesting account how a man in a boat
was distinctly heard by Mr. Green, jun., to exclaim, "My
eye! 11 which Mr. Green, jun., attributed to his voice rising
to the balloon, and the sound being thrown back from its
surface into the car; and the whole concluded with a slight
allusion to another ascent next Wednesday, all of which was
very instructive and very amusing, as our readers will see if
they look to the papers. If we have forgotten to mention
the date, they have only to wait till next summer, and take
the account of the first ascent, and it will answer the purpose
equally well.



WE have often wondered how many months 1 incessant travel-
ling in a post-chaise it would take to kill a man ; and
wondering by analogy, we should very much like to know
how many months of constant travelling in a succession of
early coaches, an unfortunate mortal could endure. Breaking
a man alive upon the wheel, would be nothing to breaking his
rest, his peace, his heart everything but his fast upon four ;
and the punishment of Ixion (the only practical person, by-
the-bye, who has discovered the secret of the perpetual motion)
would sink into utter insignificance before the one we have
suggested. If we had been a powerful churchman in those
good times when blood was shed as freely as water, and men
were mowed down like grass, in the sacred cause of religion,
we would have lain by very quietly till we got hold of some
especially obstinate miscreant, who positively refused to be
converted to our faith, and then we would have booked him
for an inside place in a small coach, which travelled day and
night: and securing the remainder of the places for stout
men with a slight tendency to coughing and spitting, we
would have started him forth on his last travels : leaving him
mercilessly to all the tortures which the waiters, landlords,
coachmen, guards, boots, chambermaids, and other familiars
on his line of road, might think proper to inflict.

Who has not experienced the miseries inevitably consequent


upon a summons to undertake a hasty journey ? You receive
an intimation from your place of business wherever that
may be, or whatever you may be that it will be necessary
to leave town without delay. You and your family are
forthwith thrown into a state of tremendous excitement ; an
express is immediately dispatched to the washerwoman's;
everybody is in a bustle; and you, yourself, with a feeling
of dignity which you cannot altogether conceal, sally forth
to the booking-office to secure your place. Here a painful
consciousness of your own unimportance first rushes on your
mind the people are as cool and collected as if nobody were
going out of town, or as if a journey of a hundred odd miles
were a mere nothing. You enter a mouldy-looking room,
ornamented with large posting-bills ; the greater part of the
place enclosed behind a huge lumbering rough counter, and
fitted up with recesses that look like the dens of the smaller
animals in a travelling menagerie, without the bars. Some
half-dozen people are " booking " brown-paper parcels, which
one of the clerks flings into the aforesaid recesses with an air
of recklessness which you, remembering the new carpet-bag you
bought in the morning, feel considerably annoyed at ; porters,
looking like so many Atlases, keep rushing in and out, with
large packages on their shoulders ; and while you are waiting
to make the necessary inquiries, you wonder what on earth
the booking-office clerks can have been before they were
booking-office clerks; one of them with his pen behind his
ear, and his hands behind him, is standing in front of the
fire, like a full-length portrait of Napoleon ; the other with
his hat half off his head, enters the passengers 1 names in the
books with a coolness which is inexpressibly provoking ; and
the villain whistles actually whistles while a man asks him
what the fare is outside, all the way to Holyhead ! in frosty
weather, too ! They are clearly an isolated race, evidently
possessing no sympathies or feelings in common with the rest
of mankind. Your turn comes at last, and having paid the
fare, you tremblingly inquire " What time will it be necessary


for me to be here in the morning ? " " Six o'clock," replies
the whistler, carelessly pitching the sovereign you have just
parted with, into a wooden bowl on the desk. "Rather
before than arter," adds the man with the semi-roasted
unmentionables, with just as much ease and complacency as
if the whole world got out of bed at five. You turn into
the street, ruminating as you bend your steps homewards
on the extent to which men become hardened in cruelty,
by custom.

If there be one thing in existence more miserable than
another, it most unquestionably is the being compelled to
rise by candle-light. If you ever doubted the fact, you are
painfully convinced of your error, on the morning of your
departure. You left strict orders, overnight, to be called at
half-past four, and you have done nothing all night but doze
for five minutes at a time, and start up suddenly from a
terrific dream of a large church-clock with the small hand
running round, with astonishing rapidity, to every figure on the
dial-plate. At last, completely exhausted, you fall gradually
into a refreshing sleep your thoughts grow confused the
stage-coaches, which have been "going off" before your eyes
all night, become less and less distinct, until they go off
altogether; one moment you are driving with all the skill
and smartness of an experienced whip the next you are
exhibiting a la Ducrow, on the off-leader; anon you are
closely muffled up, inside, and have just recognised in the
person of the guard an old schoolfellow, whose funeral, even
in your dream, you remember to have attended eighteen years
ago. At last you fall into a state of complete oblivion, from
which you are aroused, as if into a new state of existence, by
a singular illusion. You are apprenticed to a trunk-maker;
how, or why, or when, or wherefore, you don't take the trouble
to inquire ; but there you are, pasting the lining in the lid
of a portmanteau. Confound that other apprentice in the
back shop, how he is hammering ! rap, rap, rap what an
industrious fellow he must be ! you have heard him at work

A THAW. 157

for half an hour past, and he has been hammering incessantly
the whole time. Rap, rap, rap, again he's talking now
what's that he said? Five o'clock! You make a violent
exertion, and start up in bed. The vision is at once dispelled ;
the trunk-maker's shop is your own bedroom, and the other
apprentice your shivering servant, who has been vainly
endeavouring to wake you for the last quarter of an hour,
at the imminent risk of breaking either his own knuckles or
the panels of the door.

You proceed to dress yourself, with all possible dispatch.
The flaring flat candle with the long snuff, gives light enough
to show that the things you want, are not where they ought
to be, and you undergo a trifling delay in consequence of
having carefully packed up one of your boots in your over-
anxiety of the preceding night. You soon complete your
toilet, however, for you are not particular on such an occasion,
and you shayed yesterday evening ; so mounting your Peter-
sham great-coat, and green travelling shawl, and grasping
your carpet-bag in your right hand, you walk lightly down-
stairs, lest you should awaken any of the family, and after
pausing in the common sitting-room for one moment, just to
have a cup of coffee (the said common sitting-room looking
remarkably comfortable, with everything out of its place,
and strewed with the crumbs of last night's supper), you undo
the chain and bolts of the street-door, and find yourself fairly
in the street.

A thaw, by all that is miserable ! The frost is completely
broken up. You look down the long perspective of Oxford-
street, the gas-lights mournfully reflected on the wet pavement,
and can discern no speck in the road to encourage the belief
that there is a cab or a coach to be had the very coachmen
have gone home in despair. The cold sleet is drizzling down
with that gentle regularity, which betokens a duration of
four-and-twenty hours at least; the damp hangs upon the
house-tops and lamp-posts, and clings to you like an invisible
cloak. The water is "coming in" in every area, the pipes


have burst, the water-butts are running over; the kennels
seem to be doing matches against time, pump-handles descend
of their own accord, horses in market-carts fall down, and
there's no one to help them up again, policemen look as if
they had been carefully sprinkled with powdered glass ; here
and there a milk- woman trudges slowly among, with a bit of
list round each foot to keep her from slipping ; boys who
"don't sleep in the house," and are not allowed much sleep
out of it, can't wake their masters by thundering at the shop-
door, and cry with the cold the compound of ice, snow, and
water on the pavement, is a couple of inches thick nobody
ventures to walk fast to keep himself warm, and nobody could
succeed in keeping himself warm if he did.

It strikes a quarter past five as you trudge down Waterloo-
place on your way to the Golden Cross, and you discover,
for the first time, that you were called about an hour too
early. You have not time to go back ; there is no place
open to go into, and you have, therefore, no resource but
to go forward, which you do, feeling remarkably satisfied
with yourself, and everything about you. You arrive at the
office, and look wistfully up the yard for the Birmingham
High-flier, which, for aught you can see, may have flown
away altogether, for no preparations appear to be on foot for
the departure of any vehicle in the shape of a coach. You
wander into the booking-office, which with the gas-lights
and blazing fire, looks quite comfortable by contrast that
is to say, if any place can look comfortable at half-past five
on a winter's morning. There stands the identical book-
keeper in the same position as if he had not moved since
you saw him yesterday. As he informs you, that the coach
is up the yard, and will be brought round in about a quarter
of an hour, you leave your bag, and repair to "The Tap"
not with any absurd idea of warming yourself, because you
feel such a result to be utterly hopeless, but for the purpose
of procuring some hot brandy-and- water, which you do,
when the kettle boils ! an event which occurs exactly two


minutes and a half before the time fixed for the starting of
the coach.

The first stroke of six, peals from St. Martin's church
steeple, just as you take the first sip of the boiling liquid.
You find yourself at the booking-office in two seconds, and
the tap-waiter finds himself much comforted by your brandy-
and-water, in about the same period. The coach is out;
the horses are in, and the guard and two or three porters,
are stowing the luggage away, and running up the steps of
the booking-office, and down the steps of the booking-office,
with breathless rapidity. The place, which a few minutes
ago was so still and quiet, is now all bustle ; the early
vendors of the morning papers have arrived, and you are
assailed on all sides with shouts of " Times, genltrfn, Times?
''Here's Chron Chron Chron? "Herald, ma'am," "Highly
interesting murder, genlm'n," " Curious case o' breach o' pro-
mise, ladies."" The inside passengers are already in their dens,
and the outsides, with the exception of yourself, are pacing
up and down the pavement to keep themselves warm; they
consist of two young men with very long hair, to which the
sleet has communicated the appearance of crystallised rats 1
tails; one thin young woman cold and peevish, one old
gentleman ditto ditto, and something in a cloak and cap,
intended to represent a military officer ; every member of the
party, with a large stiff shawl over his chin, looking exactly
as if he were playing a set of Pan's pipes.

"Take off the cloths, Bob,"" says the coachman, who now
appears for the first time, in a rough blue great-coat, of
which the buttons behind are so far apart, that you can't
see them both at the same time. *' Now, gen'lm'n," cries
the guard, with the waybill in his hand. "Five minutes
behind time already : " Up jump the passengers the two
young men smoking like lime-kilns, and the old gentleman
grumbling audibly. The thin young woman is got upon
the roof, by dint of a great deal of pulling, and pushing,
and helping and trouble, and she repays it by expressing her


solemn conviction that she will never be able to get down

"AH right," sings out the guard at last, jumping up as
the coach starts, and blowing his horn directly afterwards,
in proof of the soundness of his wind. " Let 'em go, Harry,
give 'em their heads," cries the coachman and off we start as
briskly as if the morning were "all right," as well as the
coach : and looking forward as anxiously to the termination
of our journey, as we fear our readers will have done, long
since, to the conclusion of our paper.



IT is very generally allowed that public conveyances afford
an extensive field for amusement and observation. Of all the
public conveyances that have been constructed since the days
of the Ark we think that is the earliest on record to the
present time, commend us to an omnibus. A long stage is not
to be despised, but there you have only six insides, and the
chances are, that the same people go all the way with you
there is no change, no variety. Besides, after the first twelve
hours or so, people get cross and sleepy, and when you have
seen a man in his nightcap, you lose all respect for him ; at
least, that is the case with us. Then on smooth roads people
frequently get prosy, and tell long stories, and even those
who don't talk, may have very unpleasant predilections. We
once travelled four hundred miles, inside a stage-coach, with a
stout man, who had a glass of rum-and-water, warm, handed
in at the window at every place where we changed horses.
This was decidedly unpleasant. We have also travelled
occasionally, with a small boy of a pale aspect, with light hair,
and no perceptible neck, coming up to town from school under
the protection of the guard, and directed to be left at the
Cross Keys till called for. This is, perhaps, even worse than
rum-and-water in a close atmosphere. Then there is the
whole train of evils consequent on a change of the coachman ;
and the misery of the discovery which the guard is sure to



make the moment you begin to doze that he wants a brown-
paper parcel, which he distinctly remembers to have deposited
under the seat on which you are reposing. A great deal of
bustle and groping takes place, and when you are thoroughly
awakened, and severely cramped, by holding your legs up by an
almost supernatural exertion, while he is looking behind them,
it suddenly occurs to him that he put it in the fore-boot.
Bang goes the door; the parcel is immediately found; off
starts the coach again ; and the guard plays the key -bugle as
loud as he can play it, as if in mockery of your wretchedness.

Now, you meet with none of these afflictions in an omnibus ;
sameness there can never be. The passengers change as often
in the course of one journey as the figures in a kaleidoscope,
and though not so glittering, are far more amusing. We
believe there is no instance on record, of a man's having gone
to sleep in one of these vehicles. As to long stories, would
any man venture to tell a long story in an omnibus ? and
even if he did, where would be the harm ? nobody could
possibly hear what he was talking about. Again ; children,
though occasionally, are not often to be found in an omni-
bus; and even when they are, if the vehicle be full, as is
generally the case, somebody sits upon them, and we are
unconscious of their presence. Yes, after mature reflection,
and considerable experience, we are decidedly of opinion, that
of all known vehicles, from the glass-coach in which we were
taken to be christened, to that sombre caravan in which we
must one day make our last earthly journey, there is nothing
like an omnibus.

We will back the machine in which we make our daily
peregrination from the top of Oxford-street to the city,
against any "buss"" on the road, whether it be for the
gaudiness of its exterior, the perfect simplicity of its interior,
or the native coolness of its cad. This young gentleman is
a singular instance of self-devotion ; his somewhat intem-
perate zeal on behalf of his employers, is constantly getting
him into trouble, and occasionally into the house of correction.


He is no sooner emancipated, however, than he resumes the
duties of his profession with unabated ardour. His principal
distinction is his activity. His great boast is, " that he can
chuck an old gen'lm'n into the buss, shut him in, and rattle
off, afore he knows where it's a-going to " a feat which he
frequently performs, to the infinite amusement of every one
but the old gentleman concerned, Avho, somehow or other,
never can see the joke of the thing.

We are not aware that it has ever been precisely
ascertained, how many passengers our omnibus will contain.
The impression on the cad's mind evidently is, that it is
amply sufficient for the accommodation of any number of
persons that can be enticed into it. " Any room ? " cries a
very hot pedestrian. "Plenty o 1 room, sir," replies the
conductor, gradually opening the door, and not disclosing
the real state of the case, until the wretched man is on the
steps. "Where?" inquires the entrapped individual, with
an attempt to back out again. "Either side, sir," rejoins
the cad, shoving him in, and slamming the door. " All right,
Bill." Retreat is impossible; the new-comer rolls about, till
he falls down somewhere, and there he stops.

As we get into the city a little before ten, four or five of
our party are regular passengers. We always take them up
at the same places, and they generally occupy the same seats ;
they are always dressed in the same manner, and invariably
discuss the same topics the increasing rapidity of cabs, and
the disregard of moral obligations evinced by omnibus men.
There is a little testy old man, with a powdered head, who
always sits on the right-hand side of the door as you enter,
with his hands folded on the top of his umbrella. He is
extremely impatient, and sits there for the purpose of keeping
a sharp eye on the cad, with whom he generally holds a
running dialogue. He is very officious in helping people in
and out, and always volunteers to give the cad a poke with
his umbrella, when any one wants to alight. He usually
recommends ladies to have sixpence ready, to prevent delay ;


and if anybody puts a window down, that he can reach, he
immediately puts it up again.

"Now, what are you stopping for?" says the little man
every morning, the moment there is the slightest indication
of " pulling up " at the corner of Regent-street, when some

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 13 of 31)